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A Summer I’ll Never Forget

Posted March 19, 2014 in Alumni

Guest blogger and alumnus Chris Eitel ('13, Furniture Design) writes about his experience interning for the legendary furniture designer Vladimir Kagan.

It took me two years to get the internship. I failed in the spring of 2012. Determined to not to let it happen again, I analyzed where I had gone wrong. Looking back, it is obvious; my portfolio, my resume, my entire approach was...subpar. I was not prepared to “play” at this level. With my nose to the grindstone I barely looked up, to realize one year had passed. My missed opportunity to intern for the legendary furniture designer Vladimir Kagan was back for a second round--this time it was not going to slip away.

The furniture design program at KCAD is competitive, comprehensive, and renowned for its diverse approach to all genres of furniture. With a deeply historical philosophy, the program had prepared me to work for one of the greatest masters of modern design. I had learned to understand furniture intimately, hand-drawing and detailing the majority of my work. In four short years, I progressed through the program, learning how to express my designs in many digital formats...today’s modern way of design. As I neared the end of my undergraduate career, I felt I finally had what it took to secure my dream internship, and with a lot of hard work, perseverance, and luck, I did.

Palms sweating, knees shaking, and heart pounding, nervousness spread through my body as the plane began its pass down the runway. I had never flown by myself, I had never been to the East Coast before, and I had no idea what to expect when I got to the tiny island of Nantucket. As I walked into the ACK airport lobby, I approached the gray-haired, grinning man, and stuck out my hand, “Mr. Kagan, I’m your intern, Chris Eitel.” He received my handshake with a firm grip and replied, “Call me Vladi..”

Chris Eitel (left) and Vladimir Kagan (right) on the island of Nantucket

Chris Eitel (left) and Vladimir Kagan (right) on the island of Nantucket

I was eager to get right to work the first day on the island--and we did. I had one day to learn where all the kitchen utensils were, because the next night we were hosting a dinner party. Little did I know that dinner party would be the start to a summer I’ll never forget.

By the end of the third week, I realized that, as the job description read, this was a unique kind of internship. I had hosted dinner parties, toured Model Ts through Virginia, had a birthday, owned red pants (a Nantucket fashion staple)...and the rest of the Kagan family hadn’t even arrived yet.
 

Ford Model T's sit in front of one of the many historical sites Eitel and Kagan traveled to Virginia to visit

Ford Model T's sit in front of one of the many historical sites Eitel and Kagan traveled to Virginia to visit

By the end of June, Vladi and I had found our routine. In the morning: exercise before breakfast. Weather permitting, sailing was the first thing we would do, especially on Saturdays. Tuesday evenings, we would trip to the Cisco Brewery to see our favorite band Coq Au Vin, and on Thursday nights, we became regulars at Pazzo, where we would listen to the gypsy band’s tunes.

Coq Au Vin performs at the Cisco Brewery

Coq Au Vin performs at the Cisco Brewery

However, the summer wasn’t all sailing and cocktail parties. We did design work too. With my knowledge in computer design and Vladi’s genius resolution to a design problem, we became quite a duo. The process was the same that I had learned at KCAD, (sketch-compute-sketch-compute), but this was what I called the School of Kagan. It was like an intensive course that challenged my perspective and opened my eyes to a different view of furniture design

Kagan's sailboat, 'Korduda'

Kagan's sailboat, 'Korduda'

Design sessions with clients became my new classroom. I worked with interior designers and helped design “furniture installations” as many of our products were custom. It was not necessary to fit our products through the door if they could be lifted through a window. It was avant-garde furniture design. Working back and forth with Assistant Designer Jacob Court (a KCAD Alumni based in the New Jersey Office) helped to ease me into my position, as he was familiar with my education and background.

Eitel posing in front of the famous Nantucket Lightship

Eitel posing in front of the famous Nantucket Lightship

Sadly, like all summers, this one had to come to an end. When I arrived in Nantucket I was merely the intern; when I left, I had become known as Vladimir’s wingman. Now, it is my great pleasure to say that I have a permenant position at Vladimir Kagan Design Group, Inc as Vladimir's Personal Design Assistant. As I am writing this, I now sit at different desk, in a different apartment, on a different island, and I’m reunited with my mentor in Palm Beach. I look forward to the adventures that lie ahead, set into motion by the “Kagan Years.”

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